Anime Friends – The Peculiar Universe of a Comic-Book Convention
Anime Friends is an annual comic-book convention that takes place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and gathers an estimated 120,000 sci-fi, superhero, manga, and anime fans over six days in July (split over two consecutive Fridays and their respective weekends). This year, it started on Friday the 8th and will continue until Sunday the 17th. The event itself takes place in the military airport of Campo de Marte in northern São Paulo.
Since its inception in 2003, Anime Friends has grown more and more popular over the years. Lines to get into the event can be long, even for those holding pre-purchased tickets. It’s not uncommon to stand in the sun for more than an hour.
Few attendees will complain, as the crowd is largely made up of upbeat and excited teenagers, many dressed in costumes of characters from animes, mangas, and videogames. The majority of adults are there on business, or taking care of their children. From time to time, you’ll find the odd hardcore fan, dressed as Wolverine or Spider-man, most definitely born in the 1970s.
The exhibition area
Once inside the ample space, crowds are allowed to spread out and bask in the shade. The visitors can then start enjoying a number of very different attractions.
The exhibition area features publisher and distributor booths. There you’ll find every imaginable comic book available on the Brazilian market. Other comic-related products, bearing logos and licensed characters, can also be purchased in this section: T-shirts, mugs, posters, hats, games, costumes, Star Wars soap bars, action figures, and colorful wigs.
Well-known brands such as Panini, Abril, Draco, and Toys Collection all have displays there.
Lectures and talks
A small conference room to the right of the exhibition area sets the stage for a varied program of talks and interviews, featuring writers, publishers, YouTube personalities, magazine editors and fan club coordinators. These lectures are usually about half-full, as many attendees prefer to be out and about, crisscrossing the venue rather than committing to attending a predetermined talk.
Four interesting talks I had the chance to attend were:
● An illuminating discussion on the differences between the DC and Marvel universes, coordinated by popular YouTube users and comic book experts.
● An interview with Paulo Spaca, author of the recently-launched book O CINEMA DOS TRAPALHÕES (a study on a group of Brazilian TV comedians who managed to launch two movies a year for almost three decades, driving millions of kids and their parents to the cinema from the 1970s to the 1990s).
● A presentation by Márcia Klimiuc, coordinator of a Battlestar Galactica fan club, focusing on the roles of women and their symbology in the TV show.
● An interview with actors Marco Ribeiro and Duda Spinoza, who provided the voices for the Portuguese dubs of Iron Man and Captain America, respectively, in the Captain America: Civil War.
The audience engaged actively with the speakers, asking numerous and detailed questions.
Shows and contests
There are three stages scattered around the event hall. They feature performances from rock bands (including Sambomaster, playing music from the anime Naruto), cosplay contests, and interviews with international figures from the Anime world (like Filipino cosplayer Liui Aquino, who drove fans wild).
Attendees are free to walk into any of the attractions at any given time, but you’ll have to be quick if you want to beat the crowds and grab a seat. These events are usually thronged with people.
Last Sunday, kids, teenagers and adults in the audience packed the so-called Fantasy Stage, equally thrilled and excited at the possibility of being called up on stage to be assigned to one of the four houses of Hogwart by a speaking sorting hat. Perhaps surprisingly, most kids wanted to be members of Ravenclaw, the house that values creativity, intelligence, learning, and wit.
The Food Court
This is not a place for the fitness or health conscious. You’ll be tempted by oceans of soda and heaps of chocolate truffles, pizzas of all kinds, churros filled to the brim with condensed milk and/or nutella, in addition to the omnipresent convention noodles. Just surrender to the food.
It seems that Anime Friends draws its power not from the Earth’s yellow sun, but from its staggering caloric intake. Stock up. After all, you’ll need to keep your energy levels high in case you unexpectedly cross paths with Darth Vader or the Joker. I encountered both during my own jaunt round the event.